Hierophantic Spirituality

Witches' High Priest

Orthodoxy & fundamentalism scare me. Organized religion sends me running for the front door. There is nothing inherently wrong with believing that your way is the “right” way. In fact I can admire that kind of dedication. The problem arises when you also become convinced that your “right” way is the only way and everyone else should be doing things your way too. I admit to having a bit of an orthodox streak in my nature and I work at trying to avoid imposing my will on anyone else.  I will admit that there have been times I’ve taken an “it’s my ball and if we don’t play my way I’m leaving” approach to things. When it comes to spiritual matters I definitely prefer a more hands-on, less structured and orthodox approach. Unfortunately when humans come together in groups, orthodoxy and fundamentalism tend to erupt.

One of the reasons I avoid most group situations is because I have a cantankerous kink in my personality. The more people tell me the way I “should” be doing things, the more I feel compelled to do it differently. I blame this on my parents. One of the mantras of my childhood was “just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you have to”.  That stuck. I don’t see it as a bad thing but it really makes group membership challenging. I’ve tried several ranging from a small Wiccan coven (in which I lasted all of a month before becoming the catalyst for an implosion) to ADF, the Druid organization. In both situations there were elements I liked about the groups but ultimately their long term goals were not my own. In one case I quickly realized the group was a cult of personality for the high priestess/founder. In the other I realized the group’s mission to serve as ambassadors to the general public with regard to Pagan beliefs and rituals was counter my own nature and preferences. I have no interest in leading or even participating in public rituals.

I also have a knee-jerk reaction to the concept of Pagan “churches” or owning land to build temples etc.  I realize that for many people this is an opportunity to worship among a group of like-minded individuals in safety and privacy. I wish them well in this approach.  For me, this becomes a dramatic shift in priorities that will ultimately cause Pagan spirituality to go the way of Christianity, moving from a more High Priestess approach to a more Hierophantic one.  Once an organized religion owns “stuff” their priorities shift so that maintaining that stuff becomes paramount. It’s often slow but steady. It also tends to be a short step to creating a priesthood and establishing leaders as arbiters of what the right way is to do things. It’s a shift from exploring the hidden mysteries on your own (the realm of the High Priestess) to worshiping in a church or temple led by a priest (the Hierophant’s bailiwick). It doesn’t have to be a negative shift but it often seems to develop into one.

Hidden Realm High Priestess

Look at Christian history. Once the apostles got hold of things and made Peter the first pope, they began codifying what Jesus taught. They left out writings about Jesus that didn’t fit their views such as the Book of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene. I realize these might not be “regulation” gospels but they certainly could be. They offer a very different and perhaps more honest view of who Jesus was and what he taught.  However these teachings threatened the legitimacy of the early church.  The Jesus of the gospels is open-minded and welcoming of all peoples but the Christian church quickly became codified and orthodox. If I remember correctly there were even arguments in the early church regarding whether Gentiles could be allowed to join.  Things grew increasingly worse once the church grew into the Holy Roman Empire. After acquiring buildings and lands from the collapsing Roman Empire, the Christian church took on a very aggressive approach to converts and trumpeting the “word of God” to any and all who could hear.

Tarot of the Holy Grail Hierophant

We also seem to forget that one of the reasons early Christianity appealed to so many was because the various Pagan traditions in Rome at the time had lost their soul. They became about right acts and public observances. Many Roman citizens paid lip service to the gods by offering sacrifices but they held no true belief in their hearts. It’s as though codifying and establishing orthodox practices sucks the life out of spiritual paths. The idea of Pagan “clergy” also bothers me. I am in no way trying to condemn other people’s choices, but for me clergy sends the message that I need someone to function as an intermediary between me and my gods. It also seems like I’m being told these folks know more or are better trained to do this work than me. That irritates me. It also creates a class system in Paganism, whether intention or unintentional. Humans have a tendency to lend more credence and weight to words stated by someone with a degree of some type. It doesn’t seem to matter if what they say makes sense. The fact that the speaker has a jumble of letters after his/her name makes their pronouncements more valid to others. Down this road always seems to lie dragons of some type.

I realize that many of us seek out groups that share our spiritual beliefs because deep down we want to be sure we’re doing it “right”. We don’t trust our instincts or our connections to the gods. We want a leader, a priest or priestess to show us the “correct” way. I suppose for some folks that is great but to my mind that path leads to the same trajectory that Christianity and various Pagan traditions before it followed. The harder we try to establish ourselves as legitimate in the eyes of others, the quicker we lose our connection to the divine. We find ourselves jumping through hoops created by some external authority with little understanding of who we are or what we do in order to be validated and legitimized. I say fuck it! We do we need to meet some arbitrary guidelines created by outsiders. Instead of pursuing accreditation according to their terms I’d rather see us continue to do things our own way. Unfortunately I don’t think that will last. I may not live to see it but I have no doubt that it’s the end result of trends like paid clergy, tradition neutral training programs and the purchase of “church lands”.

Blue Rose Temperance

Blue Rose Temperance

 

Blue Rose Tarot
Created by Paula Gibby
Published by Soul Guidance

The Book says: It is a new dawn for our Fool, who, reborn, emerges from liquid depths, hampered no longer by the mundane veil of the ego. Here is our magnificent butterfly, our magical bird, arising like a phoenix from liquid made into gold by the alchemy of fire and water, heat and cold, spiritual and material – the magical fusion of dreams, hopes and goals.

The Fool greets the new dawn with magnificent wings aglow with new color and with the full beauty of the soul exposed for the first time since before the journey began. The landscape is molten, fresh and new. Elemental. Untraveled. Untraveled because the last half of the Hero’s Journey is through the soul’s inner landscape, where no one else has trod. For each Fool travels along final pathways uniquely created especially for that singular and individual being.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: For some reason the imagery on this card reminds me of a 70s Christmas cartoon, The Year Without a Santa Claus. Two of the characters in it are the Heat Miser and the Snow Miser. Both stubbornly insist that their climate is the best and refuse to acknowledge anything positive about the other’s environs. Eventually they come to appreciate each other and realize that both are necessary and beneficial to the world.  That is what I see in this card – the cold and the hot unite to form a beautiful and diverse unity.

In the northeastern USA we also see this as the seasons cycle and change. The snow and chill of winter eventually gives way to the warmth and green of spring. But that does not mean one is better than the other. Without the water from the melting snows we might not have the water needed for the plants to sprout forth. At the same time the melting water can become a torrent and sweep away the weaker, less hardy plants just popping forth. And in the beginning of spring the warmth and light of the sun is a welcome break after the brittle cold of winter. But by the time Summer rolls around the heat can become oppressive and overwhelming, and we eagerly await the cool breezes of autumn.

Temperance reminds us that moderation and the middle path is what helps us survive the extremes life can throw our way. If we can learn to walk the path between these two extremes and not let ourselves become lost on either side, we can find the inner peace and healing offered by Temperance.

Envy, greed & lust – sins for a 21st Century Devil

Dark Goddess Devil Tlazolteotl

For some reason the other day I found myself pondering the sin of envy. I’m not really big on thinking about sins but the more I thought about it the more convinced I became that envy might just be the worst of the batch. When I think of the acts that envy has caused individuals and societies to commit, it reinforces this perception. I suppose none of the seven deadly sins are especially pleasant, sloth, gluttony, pride, and wrath don’t seem to wreak the havoc that greed, lust, and envy do. To me, greed and lust seem to be different shades of envy. We become greedy because we envy what others have and we don’t. Lust, although often sexual in nature, is also a sin triggered by what we see others have and we envy and lust for their possessions or relationship. In fact in many situations we use lust almost interchangeably with envy.

I also think envy has grown more predominant in our society lately. As television, social media and a 24-hour news cycle makes the world a smaller place, we are also more aware of what we don’t have in our own lives. Beginning with shows such as Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous and continuing with such media darlings as Keeping Up with the Kardashians, we are continually exposed to lives which can most likely never achieve ourselves. At the same time we realize that these people are not better than us. This may result in feelings of envy because we find it difficult to accept that they deserve what they have and that we deserve to have more. Instead of being satisfied with our lives and what we have, we grow envious. We lust for what we see others have and become greedy to have more “things” in our own lives.

Blue Rose Tarot 9 of Pentacles

The term consumer society is often tossed around to describe our current society. It is predicated on the need to generate envy, lust and greed. We won’t buy new things if we don’t feel these emotions driving us to do it. How many of us must have the latest, greatest thing? Every time a new iPhone is released, people line up, sometimes for days, to be sure they’re among the chosen few to be blessed with this latest technological innovation. I can count the people I watched get rid of televisions that worked fine in order to acquire the latest in flat screen technology. People update their computers for no other reasons than a new model is available. Many people no long own cars, they lease them and upgrade them every two years.

Legacy of the Divine 4 of Coins

It’s as though we’ve been primed and programmed to be dissatisfied with our lives. We’re told the only way to heal this dissatisfaction is to buy new things. We let envy, greed & lust push us to spend more than we can afford in pursuit of an illusory goal. I am as guilty of this kind of behavior as anyone else but my envy, greed and lust are focused more on books and Tarot decks. I see images of other Tarot reader’s decks and am suddenly filled with lust to own a copy for myself. Then once I get it, I rarely work with it. The lust, greed and envy overwhelm me and once they’ve been satiated, I no longer have an interest in the object of desire.

Bohemian Gothic Devil

Much of this reminds me of The Devil card. We are chained, trapped and imprisoned by envy. We allow our greed and lust to control our behaviors and then try to project them on an external source. We keep reaffirming our addiction by falling into the same pattern of conspicuous consumption and consumerism.

Dark Goddess Tower Kali

In an effort to kill this particular devil and break free of these chains, I’ve decided to change my pattern. I’m going to commit to making September a no purchase month. Instead of purchasing anything new during the month of September, I am going to “shop my closet”. I’m going to look over what I already own – books, Tarot decks, clothing and actually put them to use. Rather than add to the mess of my already cluttered life, I’m going to start paring back. I’m going to review my possessions and either use it or prune it. I’ve had books in my collection for 15 years and I haven’t read them yet. If that’s the case then I have to assume I’ll never read it. If a Tarot deck does not ignite a warm, fuzzy feeling in my heart, then it needs to be released to find a new home. Clothes that no long fit or were never really “me” will be given or thrown away. Once I get rid of the extraneous things that envy, greed and lust convinced me to buy, I can get to the core of who I truly am and what I really want to do with my life. Somehow I doubt buying more stuff will aid this process at all.

Changeling syndrome

My mother doesn’t understand me. In fact most of my family doesn’t either. Don’t misunderstand – they love me. I have no doubt of that at all, but they often seemed bemused by me. It’s as though I’m a changeling dropped into their lap and they’re not sure what to make of me. I’m more introverted and less social than my siblings. I’ve never felt having a large circle of friends and acquaintances was important while my sister and brother seem to befriend almost everyone they meet. I also don’t’ believe I’m alone in this sensation. I’m sure lots of folks out there have felt their family did not understand them. In fact I have no doubt that at various points in time my siblings have been positive that I don’t understand them either; and they’d be right.

So why am I bringing this up? It’s just been something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I recently had an experience where I shared what I considered to be an interesting insight with my mother and she snorted at me! Yes, she snorted at me! At that moment I realized that while my mother loves me and remembers who I was as a child but she rarely understood my motivations or thoughts and beliefs. To her credit, I’m sure she tried but I was not the most forthcoming child. Add to this three more children, a demanding and needy husband and a job that required a lot of overtime and my mother didn’t have a lot of time on her hands to dedicate to getting me to open up. It was easier to just let me alone as long as I didn’t get in trouble, and I was rarely in that kind of trouble.

Over the years I have come to believe that I make my mother uncomfortable. Over the years we’ve had conversations during which she revealed that for many years I intimidated her. She felt I judged her and found her wanting. She’s right – I was judgmental because I could not understand why my mother tolerated the abuse she received from my father. I suppose it speaks volumes for my mother that although she did not understand me, she did manage to raise me to be strong enough not to put up with that kind of abuse myself. She also loved me enough to tolerate my intolerable arrogance and judgmental attitude. We have managed to forge a very good, solid, supportive relationship over the last few years. Once I realized that many of the issues that troubled our relationship were as much mine as hers. This was another minor epiphany for me.

I am offering this to others out there who have had troubled relationships with family members; those who often felt misunderstood and alienated from them. Remember that sometimes our memories are faulty and that we tend to view such situations from our own, self-serving perspectives. Instead of clinging to our conviction that we were right and our relatives are don’t love us because they didn’t understand us, try looking at things differently. Be a bit more open-minded and honest with yourself; accept that some of this might be on you too. Of course I’m not talking about abusive family relationships – those are often broken beyond repair. I’m talking about more typical family dysfunction that can be overcome by some honestly, open-mindedness and love on both sides. Maybe you’re not quite the changeling you’ve believed yourself to be.

Alchemy – Transformational Tarot

Transformational Alchemy

 

Transformational Tarot
Created by Arnell Ando
Published by Ink Well Publishing
ISBN #0-9649386-3-4

The Book says: The blending of opposites. A conscious effort to achieve balance and harmony. In relationships, compromise and a balance of emotion and intellect is needed. Emotions that don’t flow stagnate. Creativity, transformation, alchemy: the mixture of diverse elements in order to create something new. Every part essential to the whole. For example, an engine can not operate correctly if even a small part is missing or broken, it also happens that one thing can upset all other aspects of your life.

TarotBroad’s Buzz:  This image reminds me of the goddess of the land pouring her creative and fertile energies onto the land. She is at one with the land, incorporating its strength and is solidness into her being. Her dress looks like the snakeskin has become part of her body. She has incorporated the snake’s ability to shed its useless skin and emerge rejuvenated. The fluid flowing from the urn is more than water, it is the source of life itself. It is what allows the land to transform and bloom; to go from lifeless and barren to bursting with life and energy.

The lady is the source of life and the force of her energy and her love is what guides us to a place of balance and healing, of harmony and unity. She teaches us how to become whole, how to integrate our various parts into a unified being. We are light and dark, passive and aggressive, masculine and feminine, lunar and solar. If we cannot integrate and accept these various parts then we run the risk of cutting off part of ourselves. And one cannot live if one denies part of who we are.

Temperance – Mansions of the Moon Tarot

Mansions of the Moon Temperance

 

Mansions of the Moon Tarot
ZADOK (dahogue@nctc.net)
Self-Published

The LWB says: Temperance traditionally symbolizes balance, moderation, taking the middle path, spiritual healing, calm and serenity.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: There is a sense of peace, tranquility and serenity in this image. One gets the feeling of seeing a maiden conducting a purification ritual. She is seeking out the clear, cool waters of the babbling stream to help wash away whatever negativity has accumulated in her life. She is our guide and our healer. She helps us feel restored and washed clean.

She is able to accept the darker side of life and transform its energy into something healthy and beneficial. That is the key to her power. She transforms and transmutes the negative into positive, she balances the emotional and the practical, the intellectual and the spiritual. She is the nymph of Spring, whose will to bring forth life transforms the seemingly dead and lifeless earth into a fertile, green paradise.

Because I could not stop for Death

Jodorowsky Death

 

Today for my AM Tarot tweet I drew Death reversed from the Tarot de Marseilles. The image is quite stark and dramatic. The only figure is the scythe-wielding skeleton. Various body parts are scattered at the skeleton’s feet, like something out of an episode of Dexter. There is a relentlessness and implacability to this image. Death no longer human, if it ever was. There is no reasoning, no pleading to be spared. Death does not make deals and no one is spared. As The Doors sang “no one here gets out alive”.

Modern society seems to do everything it can to stave off death or avoid facing its reality. Much of the medical treatment I’ve seen for the elderly seems to focus on maintaining life regardless of quality. They have the ability to stabilize the body but not actually improve the situation. So if a patient is suffering from liver disease or some form of Alzheimer’s or dementia, the doctors can keep the body going but not actually heal it. I’ve watched both my in-law’s go through this process. My father-in-law’s health would deteriorate to the point that he had to be hospitalized. We would be told he had a 10% chance of improvement. Then 2 days later he had been stabilized enough so he could return home only to have the cycle repeated a few months later.

I’m not trying to promote euthanasia (although the longer I see similar scenarios played out, the more of a proponent I become) and I don’t blame the medical profession for this situation. They are simply doing what society and the law demands they do. As a society we seem to have developed an imperative that death must be postponed as long as possible regardless of consequences. If a family decided to just let an elderly parent die at home by not taking her/him to the hospital, could the family be brought up on legal charges? After watching what my husband’s family went through with his father, I often questioned why we kept returning him to the hospital when his health deteriorated. We knew he would not get better. All the hospital could do was stabilize him enough so that he could return home. It was a relentless cycle that eventually broke my mother-in-law and led to the situation I now face.

I have come to appreciate that there truly are worse fates than death. Lingering on in a state of limbo is one of them. In fact it’s made me question why anyone would want to be immortal – assuming it was possible. Watching everything one knows and loves die or change has to case psychological damage. I become melancholic just thinking about the changes I’ve seen in my life. What would my mental state be after centuries of change?

In the original Star Trek they dealt with such scenarios in two episodes that I recall. In one, Capt. Kirk finds himself on an empty Enterprise with a female he doesn’t know. We eventually learn she is the daughter of the ruler of a planet The Enterprise has recently visited. The planet knew no death or illness and as a result had become so overpopulated that it could no longer support itself. At various points throughout the episode Kirk hears heartbeats and we eventually learn this is the sound of the hearts of the populace of the planet that surrounds the fake Enterprise. It is overwhelming to hear. The woman eventually becomes ill and is happy. That was her goal – to become infected with a disease which Kirk carried but was immune to so that she could bring it back to her people. Many had volunteered to become infected in order to ease the pressure on their planet and because they no longer wanted to live. In another episode, (Requiem for Methuselah) Kirk and Spock meet Flint, a man who has lived for centuries. He had been Leonardo da Vinci, Brahms, Alexander the Great among others. In an effort to ameliorate his loneliness he had created a android companion. The crew eventually learn that Flint is slowly dying and it seems it will be a relief for him.

Dark Goddess Death

Humans seem to crave immortality (some moreso than others). Many see their children as a way of achieving that goal. Others pursue public works or donate money so that hospital wings or even buildings will be named for them. The sad truth is that nothing lasts forever, not even the greatest works of humanity. The Pyramids and Sphinx at Giza and Stonehenge are slowing eroding. “Civilizations” great achievements – towering skyscrapers, enormous damns and glittering arenas can be washed away in an instant. Today’s celebrities are tomorrow’s “whatever happened to?” fodder. Today’s heroes become little more than entries in a history book to the next generation. The truth is that everything changes, everything dies. We do not need to court death but I think if we can manage to appreciate the blessings it offers we might find a sense of peace within ourselves about its inevitability.